The Sacred Grove

Joseph Smith struggled to record the events of his life because of his limited schooling. He explained, “I was deprived of the benefit of an education suffice it to say I was merely instructed in reading writing and the ground rules of Arithmetic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.” Therefore, it is not surprising that he did not immediately record what happened to him on that early spring morning in 1820. Joseph wrote of the insufficient nature of language in a letter to William W. Phelps, asking God to “deliver [them] in [his] due time from the little narrow prison almost as it were total darkness of paper pen and ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.”

Written by Casey Paul Griffiths and Mary Jane Woodger, authors of Search, Ponder, and Pray: New England Church History Travel Guide.


Significant events at this location:

  • The Smiths farmed roughly sixty acres of their hundred-acre property and kept about forty acres for a wood lot. Historians believe that the Sacred Grove was within the original forty-acre wood plot, and the grove currently spans ten to twelve acres.
  • Joseph Smith Jr. saw God the Father and his son Jesus Christ at this site early in the spring of 1820.
  • Joseph showed the gold plates to the Eight Witnesses near the Sacred Grove.
  • There are still trees in the Sacred Grove that date back to the time of the First Vision; these are referred to as “witness trees.”

Joseph Smith recorded details of his First Vision experience in eight different documents, three of which are duplicates of a previous one with only minor differences. Reading the Prophet’s own words in these accounts most often increases the reader’s testimony. As historian Dean C. Jessee commented: 

In the process of reading through the documents and writings of Joseph Smith over the years, my conviction of the credibility of his story and the nature of his mission has increased immensely. The evidence has built detail upon detail, document upon document, to the point where it has become a compelling reality to me. Once I was able to separate the thoughts Joseph Smith put on paper with his own hand from those written by others for him, there was a whole new light cast upon him. I found that his personal writings—few in number compared to his entire archive—were like a vein of gold threading through a mountain. I saw in them a different spirit; I saw a sensitive, caring man whose prose was born of religious experience. I could well believe his words when he said: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me.

Joseph was the only human witness of the First Vision, and his direct accounts are therefore invaluable. If we want to know more about Joseph and his feelings and emotions, if we want to know more about the nature of this young man, reading his own words will enhance our understanding.